TUI Travel , the world's biggest tour operator, said it had significantly outperformed competitors in Britain during the first quarter, benefiting from the difficulties encountered by struggling rival Thomas Cook .

The group, which operates the Thomson and First Choice chains and takes 30 million people on holiday each year, said over a third of its summer 2012 holidays had already been sold and that it had seen a sharp rise in internet bookings.

Turn of year trading has been ahead of expectations and we are particularly pleased with our online performance, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

42 percent of holidays were sold online, up 6 percentage points on the previous year, while average selling prices were up 8 percent on the year before, it said.

TUI Travel said it made an operating loss of 109 million pounds in the first quarter to end December, compared with an 86 million pound loss the year before.

Tour operators traditionally make a loss in the half of the year which does not include the key summer period.

Market forecasts had ranged between a loss of 110 million pounds and 116 million pounds, according to a Reuters poll of 3 analysts.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; editing by Rhys Jones)