THOUSANDS flocked to 2023’s Bournemouth Air Festival in what was the 15th year of the four-day event. 

Many are fearing this year’s round of displays could be the final one amid speculation BCP Council, which organises the event, could pull the plug for next year. 

As is tradition on the final day, a provisional date for next year’s Air Festival is announced by festival director Jon Weaver. 

However, no such dates have been announced. 

This is, though, NOT confirmation the event will not return next year. Here’s why: 

Bournemouth Echo:

Why have no dates been announced for Air Festival 2024? 

BCP Council leader Cllr Vikki Slade said her new administration, formed after May’s elections, will be “looking at future options” for the huge established event. 

The local authority has said “significant financial pressures” mean the Three Towns Alliance leadership needs to find “new ways of sustainability financing” the free event. 

There is a £44m shortfall in the 2024-25 council budget and the Bournemouth Air Festival has always been heavily subsidised by residents, this year by around £400,000. 

What have council leaders said on the future? 

Cllr Millie Earl, deputy leader, said: “No decisions have been made on the future of the air festival yet.

“We will continue to have meetings with business leads as part of our working group, established in July.

“As part of forthcoming discussions, we’ll be analysing the data from this years’ festival and looking at some of the ideas we’ve received from business owners and festival goers over the last few days.

“We will announce what next year will look like as soon as we can. We’re expecting a recommendation in front of our cabinet in October.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Slade said: “The Three Towns Alliance is committed to being an open and transparent council, where challenges are welcomed. 

Bournemouth Echo:

“We are pragmatic and honest regarding the council’s financial position, and while there are discussions to be had regarding all events, it is important we take the opportunity as a cabinet to look at future options for the Bournemouth Air Festival, from 2024 onwards.” 

When will we know about the future?

Recommendations on the future will be put forward to cabinet in October. After that, a decision will be made.

There will be no formal public consultation. The views of residents are welcome, the council says, but it is unclear how these could be made and what impact they would have on the overall decision. 

What is opposition saying? 

Bournemouth Echo:

Conservative and opposition leader Cllr Phil Broadhead wants the Air Festival to continue, adding his group won the argument at budget setting in February against other parties who wanted to “either scrap or seriously curtail” the event. 

The former council leader said: “It now looks inevitable that the new Lib Dem led alliance is clear in their intent to see the end of this much-loved part of our area's tourist offer. 

“This is not about money; the cost to the council after taking into account all of the extra income from ice creams, parking etc is in the £10,000s. 

“And yet independent analysis shows that this event brings in circa £59m to the local economy each year.”