Another airline, this time China's budget carrier Spring Airlines, is publicly floating the idea of asking passengers to stand during flights so the company can accommodate more coach-class travelers on short-haul flights.

The passengers would be strapped into specially designed "seats" that look like a cross between a riding saddle and cryogenic freezing capsules. Previously, the Irish discount carrier Ryan Air had explored increasing airplane capacity in the same way.

It seems the lopsided international economy, with the mega-rich on one end and the rest of us on the other, is increasingly reflected in the airline industry. According to The Economist, a so-called super-business class already accounts for a third of seat manufacturers' revenue. One company, Etihad, is designing three-room "residences" to the specifications of A380 airplanes.

In economic terms, this means that airlines are looking to compete on price at the bottom end of the market by squeezing more and more passengers into cattle class. At the upper end of the market, airlines will push for more and more opulence — anything to attract travelers with exponentially more money to throw at travel perks.

The Economist proposes a novel way to further reduce airline costs for the non-elite: ask them to sign on as personal servants to the passengers flying in "residential suites." The sad thing is, advances in seating and entertainment technology could create a substantial premium-economy section, but the airlines don't currently seem interested. 

Photo credit: CNN