Join us for Astro Days: NYC on Sept 27!

Importing Custom Hooks & Operators


One of the great benefits of Airflow is its vast network of provider packages that provide hooks, operators, and sensors for many common use cases. Another great benefit of Airflow is that because everything is defined in Python code, it is highly customizable. If a hook, operator, or sensor you need doesn’t exist in the open source, you can easily define your own.

In this guide, we’ll briefly explain how to define your own custom code. Then, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make custom code available to your DAGs. We’ll use custom operators as our primary example, but these same concepts also apply to custom hooks and sensors.

Defining a Custom Operator

At a high level, creating a custom operator is straightforward. At a minimum, all custom operators must:

  • Inherit from the BaseOperator.
  • Define Constructor and Execute classes.

This will look something like the code below:

from airflow.models.baseoperator import BaseOperator
from airflow.utils.decorators import apply_defaults
from hooks.my_hook import MyHook

class MyOperator(BaseOperator):

    def __init__(self,
        super(MyOperator, self).__init__(*args, **kwargs)
        self.my_field = my_field

    def execute(self, context):
        hook = MyHook('my_conn')

If your custom operator is modifying functionality of an existing operator, your class can inherit from the operator you are building off of instead of the BaseOperator. For more detailed instructions on defining custom operators, check out the Apache Airflow How-to Guide.

Importing Custom Operators

Once you have your custom operator defined, you need to make it available to your DAGs. Some legacy Airflow documentation or forums may reference registering your custom operator as an Airflow plugin, but this is not necessary. To import a custom operator into your DAGs, the file containing your custom operator needs to be in a directory that is present in your PYTHONPATH.

Airflow by default will add the dags/ and plugins/ directories in a project to the PYTHONPATH, so those are the most natural choices for storing custom operator files (check out the Apache Airflow Module Management docs for more info). Your project structure may vary depending on your team and your use case. At Astronomer we use the following structure, where custom operator files live in the plugins/ directory with sub-folders for readability.

├── dags/                    
│   ├──
├── Dockerfile                  
├── include/                 
│   └── sql/
│       └── transforms.sql
├── packages.txt     
├── plugins/             
│   └── operators/
│       └──
│   └── sensors/
│       └──
└── requirements.txt    

For more details on why we recommend this project structure, check out our Managing Airflow Code guide.

Note: If you use an IDE and don’t want to see import errors, add the plugins directory as a source root.

Once you have your custom operators added to the project like this, you can easily import them in your DAG like you would any other Python package:

from airflow import DAG
from datetime import datetime, timedelta
from operators.my_operator import MyOperator
from sensors.my_sensor import MySensor

default_args = {
	'owner': 'airflow',
	'depends_on_past': False,
	'start_date': datetime(2018, 1, 1),
	'email_on_failure': False,
	'email_on_retry': False,
	'retries': 1,
	'retry_delay': timedelta(minutes=5),

with DAG('example_dag',
		 default_args=default_args) as dag:

	sens = MySensor(

	op = MyOperator(
		my_field='some text'

	sens >> op

And that’s it! Your DAG will use MyOperator and MySensor when it runs, giving you full flexibility over what happens in your pipelines.

Modern,Cloud-Native Data Orchestration powered by Apache Airflow

Start building your next-generation data platform with Astro.

Get Started