Ulrich Steppler, LLM heads the airline and aviation team out of ASD’s Frankfurt office. He represents cargo and passenger airlines, as well as other industry stakeholders, in a wide range of contentious and commercial matters. He also serves as CEO of the legal tech and travel vendor CHS Claims Handling Solutions, which runs the platform justclaims.eu to assist carriers to automate and digitise their passenger-claims-handling processes.
What has been your most interesting case to date, and why?
On one weekend we repossessed four commercial aircraft at three airports situated in three different countries – probably the longest 72 hours of my professional life.
Besides this, we won one of the few preliminary rulings in favour of the airline industry before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in connection with Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004. That was a great day for everybody!
What did you find most challenging about entering aviation practice?
The challenge constantly keeping you on your toes is the need to think outside the box. At the same time, this is the beauty of the industry and our profession.
In what ways does Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein distinguish itself from competition in the market?
With 60-plus transport specialists out of 160 attorneys, we are presumably the largest transport firm on the continent. In our airline and aviation group we established the concept of a one-stop shop, which has proven very attractive to our client base.
What are the main challenges of representing an international airline before the CJEU?
In consumer law-related cases, the airline industry as a whole and the individual carriers are fighting an uphill battle. Regulation 261 is getting out of hand and the decisions taken by the CJEU sometimes seem to be more of a political than a legal nature. I am not so sure whether the Court is actually eyeing up the factual consequences of its far-reaching decisions very closely.
Why did you decide to co-found CHS Claims Handling Solutions, and what does it do?
Many of our clients use little to no support tools in their daily claims-handling routines. That is why we came up with the idea to code a platform that helps airlines to automate and digitise their passenger-claims-handling processes. The solution not only helps to save a lot of time, money and aggravation, but carriers can also enhance customer loyalty and satisfaction, as well as user experience, plus they can increase ticket sales through smart payout functions.
What do you enjoy most about your current role as the head of the airline and aviation group?
The strategic approach remains appealing. What is just as joyful is to see younger colleagues and talents make their way in the legal profession, into the airline world, and to offer support when necessary.
Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie?
Our law firm decided to invest in all insurance-related work, which affects our transportation practice group on all levels. We see a lot of potential here in the years to come.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career to date. What would you like to achieve that you have not already?
The legal profession is undergoing a fundamental change through digitisation in this day and age. Founding CHS was in anticipation of that. I would certainly enjoy seeing the further growth of the young company – and I am positive that this will be the case.