Building Data Pipelines with Apache Airflow: A Complete Guide with Examples

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Building Data Pipelines with Apache Airflow: A Complete Guide with Examples

Learn how to create and manage data pipelines using Apache Airflow, the open-source tool for workflow automation.

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Data pipelines are a critical component of modern data infrastructures, allowing organizations to efficiently manage and process large volumes of data. Apache Airflow is an open-source platform that helps developers to create and manage data pipelines. This article will explore how to use Apache Airflow to build and manage data pipelines.

Introduction to Apache Airflow

Apache Airflow is a platform for creating, scheduling and monitoring workflows called DAGs (Directed Acyclic Graphs). A DAG consists of a set of tasks that are executed in a particular order to perform a specific job. Each task is designed to perform a specific action, such as downloading or processing data.

The primary advantages of Apache Airflow are its flexibility and reliability. It allows developers to create customized workflows, define dependencies between tasks, and manage the scheduling of jobs. Moreover, Airflow has a robust and active community that provides support, and it can be used with different technologies and languages such as Python, Java, Spark, and more.

Building a Simple Data Pipeline with Apache Airflow

Let's look at an example of how to build a simple data pipeline with Apache Airflow. In this scenario, we want to extract data from a MySQL database and load it into a PostgreSQL database.

Here'€™s how we would set up the DAG:

  1. Install the necessary packages: You'll need to install Apache Airflow and any other necessary packages, such as psycopg2, for working with PostgreSQL.

  2. Define DAGs: Define the DAG and set up its properties such as DAG id, schedule interval, start date, and more.

  3. Define Tasks: Define the two tasks for the data transfer job, i.e., extracting data from MySQL and loading it into PostgreSQL.

  4. Define Dependencies: Set up dependencies between tasks to ensure the right task is executed at the right time.

  5. Run the DAG: Finally, initiate the DAG, and monitor the progress from the Airflow UI.

Here's what the DAG definition could look like in Python code:

from airflow import DAG
from airflow.operators.python_operator import PythonOperator
from airflow.providers.postgres.operators.postgres import PostgresOperator
from datetime import datetime, timedelta
import psycopg2
import mysql.connector

# Default arguments
default_args = {
    'owner': 'airflow',
    'depends_on_past': False,
    'start_date': datetime(2022, 1, 1),
    'retries': 1,
    'retry_delay': timedelta(minutes=5)

# DAG definition
dag = DAG(
    description='Transfer data from MySQL to PostgreSQL',

# Define tasks
def extract_mysql():
    # MySQL connection
    mysql_conn = mysql.connector.connect(

    # Create cursor
    cursor = mysql_conn.cursor()

    # Execute the SELECT statement
    cursor.execute('SELECT * FROM table_name')

    # Fetch data from the result set
    data = cursor.fetchall()

    # Close the cursor and MySQL connection

    return data

mysql_task = PythonOperator(

def load_postgres(**kwargs):
    # retrieve data from upstream task
    data = kwargs['ti'].xcom_pull(task_ids='extract_data_from_mysql')

    # PostgreSQL connection
    postgres_conn = psycopg2.connect(

    # Create cursor
    cursor = postgres_conn.cursor()

    # Execute the INSERT statement
    cursor.executemany('INSERT INTO table_name VALUES (?, ?, ?, ...)', data)

    # Commit the changes and close the cursor and PostgreSQL connection

postgres_task = PythonOperator(

# Define dependencies
mysql_task >> postgres_task

Apache Airflow Components

Let's go through some of the essential components of Apache Airflow.


Connections store the credentials necessary to connect to external resources such as databases, APIs, and file systems.

from airflow.hooks.base_hook import BaseHook

mysql_hook = BaseHook.get_connection('mysql_conn_id')
mysql_conn = MySQLdb.connect(


Hooks allow developers to interact with external services like databases and APIs.

from airflow.providers.postgres.hooks.postgres import PostgresHook

postgres_hook = PostgresHook(postgres_conn_id='postgres_conn_id')
postgres_conn = postgres_hook.get_conn()


Operators are the building blocks of Apache Airflow workflows, defining how to perform specific tasks. Apache Airflow has many built-in operators, such as BashOperator, PythonOperator, and PostgresOperator.

from airflow.providers.postgres.operators.postgres import PostgresOperator

postgres_task = PostgresOperator(
    sql='SELECT * FROM table_name',


This article covers using Apache Airflow to create and manage data pipelines. We have explained how to set up a simple data pipeline and covered some of the essential components of the Apache Airflow platform. With more complex examples and leveraging its extensive library of operators and hooks, you can create and manage data pipelines to handle even the most comprehensive data processing needs.