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In the US, Flight Following is a radar service provided to VFR aircraft on a best-effort basis. Controllers provide traffic advisories but they don't issue clearances or instructions and the pilot is responsible for maintaining separation from other aircraft, observing altitude, airspace and other flight rules etc. Flight following is only provided when the controllers' workload permits and it may be terminated at any time.

Is there an equivalent service in Europe? I've heard of something in the UK called "basic service" but I don't know if it's the same thing and if it's UK only or a Europe-wide service.

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Yes, it is called Flight Information Service (FIS). FIS is defined by ICAO, and the term is used in most of the world. "Flight following" is a local term used only in certain countries.

A flight information service (FIS) is a form of air traffic service which is available to any aircraft within a flight information region (FIR), as agreed internationally by ICAO.

It is defined as information pertinent to the safe and efficient conduct of flight, and includes information on other potentially conflicting traffic, possibly derived from radar, but stopping short of providing positive separation from that traffic.

Flight Information also includes:

Meteorological information
Information on aerodromes
Information on possible hazards to flight

FIS shall be provided to all aircraft which are provided with any air traffic controller (ATC) service or are otherwise known to air traffic service units. All air traffic service units will provide an FIS to any aircraft, in addition to their other tasks.

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  • $\begingroup$ And, in Europe, you will be charged for that service. $\endgroup$ – Mike Brass Dec 31 '17 at 1:17
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    $\begingroup$ There is no charge for using Flight Information Service. $\endgroup$ – SentryRaven Feb 8 '18 at 15:25

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