It's not some miserable dystopic movie scene about class polarization.
The vertical passenger seat -- or "standing cabin" -- may be the next big cost-cutting move in aviation, according to a new report whose author says the concept could be here within five years.
"I stumbled across the idea when I was looking (into) ways to reduce the flight ticket price," Fairuz Romli, who authored the report published in the IACSIT International Journal of Engineering and Technology, tells CNN by email.
Romli, an aerospace engineering professor at the Universiti Putra Malaysia, says his motivation is to lower the cost of air travel to a level competitive with buses and trains.
Using the popular Boeing 737-300 as an example, his study calculates that a standing cabin would lead to a 21 percent increase in passenger capacity while dropping ticket prices by as much as 44 percent among full-service airlines.
"I'm a frequent flier and most of the times during domestic flights, it feels like the flying time is very short that the aircraft is already descending for landing before you can unfasten your seatbelt after takeoff," he says.
"Hence the big question came to my mind: in such a short duration of flight time, do we really need to sit down?"
Romli quickly discovered that the idea had already been researched -- most notably by Airbus, China's Spring Airlines and Ireland's Ryanair.
The SkyRider, developed by Aviointeriors S.p.A. and unveiled at an expo in 2010, is a perching saddle, while Ryanair once flirted with the idea of a "flat-padded backboard" with a seatbelt over the shoulders.
Cost or comfort?
In 2012, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary floated the idea with his characteristic bluntness: "The problem with aviation is that for 50 years it's been populated by people who think it's a wondrous sexual experience when it's really just a bus with wings."
However, a representative for Ryanair tells CNN that the airline has since abandoned its vertical-passenger plans.
"We have no plans to trial or introduce standing flights," says the representative.
Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department voiced caution.
"There are very stringent requirements for the aircraft and the passenger seat to meet before the aircraft or the configuration is certified to carry passengers," a representative tells CNN.
"This novel standing-room design and the mentioned restraint system are early concepts. It may take much time for them to materialize."
Manufacturers have also expressed doubt about the concept's feasibility.
"We don't believe there are good market opportunities for this idea," says Mark Hiller, CEO of Recaro Aircraft Seating, one of the world's major suppliers of commercial airplane passenger seats.
"From our point of view, passengers will not accept to travel that way. Even if such a seat would pass certification tests, we would see it as a great sacrifice for passengers in terms of comfort and living space, even for very short flights."
Fly, don't ride