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A WestJet plane passes over an Air Canada plane at the Calgary Airport on May 10, 2018.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

North Americans are happier about airline travel than they have ever been, a survey of passengers shows, pointing to cheaper fares, new planes and better overheard storage compartments.

Passenger satisfaction with airlines in North America rose for the seventh straight year in the 2018 survey by quality measuring consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates. Overall satisfaction rose six points to 762 on a 1,000-point scale, the consulting firm said in its annual survey of airline passengers, released Wednesday.

“Operationally, it’s never been a better time to fly,” Michael Taylor, who leads the travel practice at J.D. Power, said in a news release. “Passengers perceive greater value in ticket prices, checking in has never been easier, passengers are more satisfied with the actual aircraft and airlines have improved their baggage-handling performance.”

Canada’s two largest airlines, Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd., improved their standing in the study, but still ranked below-average in their segments. Air Canada’s 734-point total was less than the 741-point average in the traditional carrier rankings, while WestJet’s 747 points were below the 799-point average among low-cost carriers.

Air Canada’s score increased 25 points, from the 2017 level of 709, the second-best improvement among traditional carriers.

Passengers were surveyed between March, 2017, and March, 2018, a period during which many airlines experienced savage criticism on social media and elsewhere, highlighted by police pulling a man off an overbooked United Airlines plane in Chicago in April, 2017.

Both Canadian carriers are active in the two key categories of fleet and fares.

Both are adding new single-aisle Boeing 737 airplanes, while WestJet will expand its wide-body offerings and international destinations next year with the addition of Boeing 787 planes. Air Canada will take delivery of the final two planes of its 37-plane 787 order next year.

The airlines are also expanding their low-priced offerings.

WestJet has created an ultralow-cost carrier called Swoop that is scheduled to begin flying next month and plans to expand its offerings to popular winter destinations later this year.

Air Canada has expanded its low-cost Rouge network domestically.

All airlines, however, are struggling to keep passengers satisfied when it comes to in-flight offerings such as food, beverage and entertainment systems, the survey results show.

In-flight services were the issue that was complained about most, the survey showed.

J.D. Power said passengers expect trouble-free connectivity for personal devices.

“Keeping pace with improvements in Wi-Fi technology is a difficult and expensive proposition for the airlines,” the consulting firm said.

Alaska Airlines topped the ranking of traditional carriers, while Southwest Airlines Co. led the low-cost carrier category.

Follow Greg Keenan on Twitter: @gregkeenanglobeOpens in a new window

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