“Splendid” – “a real aviation party” – “a brilliant social event, perhaps the most beautiful of this winter” – “sumptuous gowns, the most beautiful flower arrangements, celebrities from all over the world” – these were the words used by the Hamburger Abendblatt to describe the Ball über den Wolken in the 1950s. What must have been the mood in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and in aviation at that time when the ball was launched?
The ball was founded and organised in 1950 by the Hamburg Airport Authority, the Hotel Atlantic, the seven airlines flying to Hamburg and the Hamburg Aviation Agents’ Association. The SKAL Club Hamburg also joined in. The ball was intended to establish friendly international relations – at a time when Germany had not yet regained its air sovereignty after the end of the Second World War. German aircraft and pilots are not yet allowed to fly again; air traffic is handled exclusively by the occupying powers. At least, since the currency reform, Germans have been allowed to fly again as passengers against payment in Deutsche Mark – until 1949, they still had to cede their seats to a dollar-paying US American until the last minute. After the currency reform, the Americans now gave instructions to treat German passengers equally.
Thus, step by step, the gateway to the world of aviation opens up again for the Germans in the 1950s. This can be felt particularly well in Hamburg. At the beginning of the 1950s, Hamburg Airport was already connected to the world again and fulfilled a bridgehead and hub function to West Berlin and Scandinavia. By contrast, Frankfurt Airport at this time is only for domestic German stopovers.
The 1950s were marked by aviation milestones for Hamburg: in 1950, the airport administration was returned to German responsibility, followed by air traffic control in 1953.
Hamburg Airport was one of the first airports in West Germany to be equipped with the most modern radar landing system. In 1953, Deutsche Lufthansa was newly founded – in 1954, the topping-out ceremony for the new Lufthansa hangar was celebrated in Hamburg: Hamburg is now the home port of Deutsche Lufthansa. This offers many Hamburgers attractive jobs in this international, lively industry. On 1 March 1955, Lufthansa begins test flights within the Federal Republic. In April, the Lufthansa flag flies again at Hamburg Airport.
In May 1955 the time has finally come: With the Paris Treaties, the Federal Republic of Germany regains full sovereignty and air sovereignty. From now on Lufthansa can launch its new European routes. The routes to London, Madrid and Paris are opened with ceremonial speeches. Alongside Munich and Frankfurt, Hamburg is to become a main hub for American traffic. The so-called air cruisers fly the Hamburg – New York route in 21 hours. Flying is attractive – many young people want to become stewardesses and pilots, and after the economy class is established in 1958 and some tour operators already offer package tours, flying also becomes more affordable for the “normal citizen”.
Aviation in the 1950s is under a good star. So it is no wonder that during this time the Ball über den Wolken also becomes increasingly popular, not only for guests from Hamburg, but also from Europe and overseas. In 1956, the Hamburger Abendblatt wrote: “The ball is now already part of the tradition of the winter season.” And this is also particularly the case in 2024, because the Ball über den Wolken is considered the most beautiful and magnificent ball in Hamburg.