For DAGs with time-based schedules (as opposed to event-driven), the scheduling decisions are driven by its internal “timetable”. The timetable also determines the data interval and the logical date of each run created for the DAG.
DAGs scheduled with a cron expression or
timedelta object are
internally converted to always use a timetable.
If a cron expression or
timedelta is sufficient for your use case, you don’t need
to worry about writing a custom timetable because Airflow has default timetables that handle those cases.
But for more complicated scheduling requirements,
you may create your own timetable class and pass that to the DAG’s
Here are some examples of when custom timetable implementations are useful:
Data intervals with “holes” between. (Instead of continuous, as both the cron expression and
Run tasks at different times each day. For example, an astronomer may find it useful to run a task at dawn to process data collected from the previous night-time period.
Schedules not following the Gregorian calendar. For example, create a run for each month in the Traditional Chinese Calendar. This is conceptually similar to the sunset case above, but for a different time scale.
Rolling windows, or overlapping data intervals. For example, one may want to have a run each day, but make each run cover the period of the previous seven days. It is possible to “hack” this with a cron expression, but a custom data interval would be a more natural representation.
As such, Airflow allows for custom timetables to be written in plugins and used by DAGs. An example demonstrating a custom timetable can be found in the Customizing DAG Scheduling with Timetables how-to guide.
As a general rule, always access Variables, Connections etc or anything that would access the database as late as possible in your code. See Timetables for more best practices to follow.
Airflow comes with several common timetables built in to cover the most common use cases. Additional timetables may be available in plugins.
A timetable that accepts a cron expression, and triggers DAG runs according to it.
from airflow.timetables.trigger import CronTriggerTimetable
@dag(schedule=CronTriggerTimetable("0 1 * * 3", timezone="UTC"), ...) # At 01:00 on Wednesday
It is also possible to provide a static data interval to the timetable. The optional
must be a
dateutil.relativedelta.relativedelta. If given, a triggered DAG
run’s data interval would span the specified duration, and ends with the trigger time.
from datetime import timedelta
from airflow.timetables.trigger import CronTriggerTimetable
# Runs every Friday at 18:00 to cover the work week (9:00 Monday to 18:00 Friday).
"0 18 * * 5",
Schedules data intervals with a time delta. Can be selected by providing a
dateutil.relativedelta.relativedelta to the
schedule parameter of a DAG.
A timetable that accepts a cron expression, creates data intervals according to the interval between each cron trigger points, and triggers a DAG run at the end of each data interval.
This can be selected by providing a string that is a valid cron expression to the
parameter of a DAG as described in the DAGs documentation.
@dag(schedule="0 1 * * 3") # At 01:00 on Wednesday.
Simply pass a list of
datetimes for the DAG to run after. Useful for timing based on sporting
events, planned communication campaigns, and other schedules that are arbitrary and irregular but predictable.
The list of events must be finite and of reasonable size as it must be loaded every time the DAG is parsed. Optionally,
restrict_to_events flag can be used to force manual runs of the DAG to use the time of the most recent (or very
first) event for the data interval, otherwise manual runs will run with a
data_interval_end equal to the time at which the manual run was begun. You can also name the set of events using the
description parameter, which will be displayed in the Airflow UI.
from airflow.timetables.events import EventsTimetable
pendulum.datetime(2022, 4, 5, 8, 27, tz="America/Chicago"),
pendulum.datetime(2022, 4, 17, 8, 27, tz="America/Chicago"),
pendulum.datetime(2022, 4, 22, 20, 50, tz="America/Chicago"),
description="My Team's Baseball Games",
Differences between the two cron timetables¶
There are two timetables CronTriggerTimetable and CronDataIntervalTimetable that accepts a cron expression.
There are some differences between the two:
- CronTriggerTimetable does not take care of Data Interval, while CronDataIntervalTimetable does.
- The time when a DAG run is triggered by CronTriggerTimetable is more intuitive and more similar to what people
expect cron to behave than that of CronDataIntervalTimetable (when
Whether taking care of Data Interval¶
CronTriggerTimetable does not care the idea of data interval. It means the value of
data_interval_end and legacy
execution_date are the same - the time when a DAG run is triggered.
On the other hand, CronDataIntervalTimetable does care the idea of data interval. It means the value of
data_interval_end (and legacy
execution_date) are different. They are the start
and end of the interval respectively.
The time when a DAG run is triggered¶
There is no difference between the two when
True. Catchup tells you how DAG runs are
False, there is difference in how a new DAG run is triggered. CronTriggerTimetable triggers
a new DAG run after the current time, while CronDataIntervalTimetable does before the current time (assuming
the value of
start_date is past time).
Here is an example showing how the first DAG run is triggered. Supposes there is a cron expression
0 0 * * *, which is aimed to run at 12AM every day. If you enable DAGs using the two timetables at 3PM on January
31st, CronTriggerTimetable will trigger a new DAG run at 12AM on February 1st. CronDataIntervalTimetable, on the other
hand, will immediately trigger a new DAG run which is supposed to trigger at 12AM on January 31st if the DAG had been
This is another example showing the difference in the case of skipping DAG runs. Suppose there are two running DAGs
using the two timetables with a cron expression
0 0 * * *. If you pause the DAGs at 3PM on January
31st and re-enable them at 3PM on February 2nd, CronTriggerTimetable skips the DAG runs which are supposed to
trigger on February 1st and 2nd. The next DAG run will be triggered at 12AM on February 3rd. CronDataIntervalTimetable,
on the other hand, skips the DAG runs which are supposed to trigger on February 1st only. A DAG run for February 2nd
is immediately triggered after you re-enable the DAG.