Amazon API Gateway
Developer Guide

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Set up Gateway Responses to Customize Error Responses

If API Gateway fails to process an incoming request, it returns to the client an error response without forwarding the request to the integration backend. By default, the error response contains a short descriptive error message. For example, if you attempt to call an operation on an undefined API resource, you receive an error response with the { "message": "Missing Authentication Token" } message. If you are new to API Gateway, you may find it difficult to understand what actually went wrong.

For some of the error responses, API Gateway allows customization by API developers to return the responses in different formats. For the Missing Authentication Token example, you can add a hint to the original response payload with the possible cause, as in this example: {"message":"Missing Authentication Token", "hint":"The HTTP method or resources may not be supported."}.

When your API mediates between an external exchange and the AWS cloud, you use VTL mapping templates for integration request or integration response to map the payload from one format to another. However, the VTL mapping templates work only for valid requests with successful responses. For invalid requests, API Gateway bypasses the integration altogether and returns an error response. You must use the customization to render the error responses in an exchange-compliant format. Here, the customization is rendered in a non-VTL mapping template supporting only simple variable substitutions.

Generalizing the API Gateway-generated error response to any responses generated by API Gateway, we refer to them as gateway responses. This distinguishes API Gateway-generated responses from the integration responses. A gateway response mapping template can access $context variable values and $stageVariables property values, as well as method request parameters, in the form of method.request.param-position.param-name. For more information about $context variables, see $context Variables for Data Models, Authorizers, Mapping Templates, and CloudWatch Access Logging. For more information about $stageVariables, see $stageVariables. For more information about method request parameters, see Request parameters accessible by a mapping template.