Airflow Broke Branching

John Born
2 min readOct 25, 2020


Airflow 1.10.12 broke branching. Airflow 1.10.13 fixes it.

Airflow 1.10.12 Change

The Airflow Changelog and this Airflow PR describe the following updated functionality.

[AIRFLOW-5391] Do not re-run skipped tasks when they are cleared (#7276)

This PR fixes the following issue:

If a task is skipped by BranchPythonOperator, BaseBranchOperator or ShortCircuitOperator and the user then clears the skipped task, it'll execute.

After this PR:

The NotPreviouslySkippedDep rule will first evaluate if a task has a direct SkipMixin parent that has decided to skip it. This is done by examining the XCom data stored by SkipMixin.skip() or SkipMixin.skip_all_except().

At first glance, this is a great update! It lets you clear and re-run tasks downstream of branches while preserving the expected outcome.

Clearing tasks downstream of branches operates differently now

Airflow 1.10.13 Change

However, the implementation above introduced another bug. What’s the issue here? This implementation no longer respects the following rule from the Airflow Documentation.

Paths of the branching task are branch_a, join and branch_b. Since join is a downstream task of branch_a, it will be excluded from the skipped tasks when branch_a is returned by the Python callable.

Expected skipped tasks
Actual skipped tasks

This issue was raised in the following Airflow PR (cloned issue here):

Make sure SkipMixin.skip_all_except() handles empty branches like this properly. When "branch_a" is followed, "join" must not be skipped even though it is considered to be immediately downstream of "branching".

So, branching will be fixed once again when Airflow 1.10.13 is rolled out!


Airflow has its growing pains, but it’s good to see the project move in the right direction! At the time of writing this article, Airflow 1.10.12 is the stable version, so 1.10.13 fix isn’t rolled out yet. Keep up to date on changes like this by participating in the Airflow community. You can take a look at Airflow 2.0 planning to see more upcoming changes. Thanks to the PR creators for the images!