In typical usage, the terms seem to be used interchangeably. However, aircraft must be transponder- or encoder-equipped for traffic advisories to be possible, for example.

What information does each provide to pilots that the other does not?

  • $\begingroup$ You can get both by asking ATC for either one. I understand traffic advisories to be one of the benefits of flight following. See this AOPA article on the subject. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ See also the Pilot/Controller Glossary entries on RADAR ADVISORY, FLIGHT FOLLOWING, and TRAFFIC ADVISORIES. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ Services provided by ATC depend on the airspace class. When only advisory service is provided, ATC doesn't provide vectors or assign flight levels, only traffic information. This may vary by countries. Typically this is the F airspace (not used in the US). $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ Your second sentence is not correct. Traffic advisories may be called both to and about primary-only targets, provided there is sufficient primary radar coverage. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 16:19

2 Answers 2


Depends on the ANSP (Air Navigation Service Provider) to what each term means to them. In most ANSPs they mean exactly the same thing or their individual regulations only have one of these terms/procedures available.

A traffic advisory technically doesn't always require a transponder especially if it is of a snapshot of traffic. The pilot requesting the traffic advisory gives position and a one time traffic picture is provided to the pilot. This is mainly relevant in areas where there is not Secondary Surveillance coverage and/or no surveillance coverage at all.

However Flight Following does require being able to be identified for continual coverage. Some ANSPs also provide additional reporting services with those receiving flight following like SAR services and Hazard Alerting services.

Some ANSPs only provide these services at the discretion of the controller based on their own perceived workload.

Check the local regulations for the ANSP your flying in to get exactly what you will be provided


To my ear as a controller in the United States, "flight following" implies a desire to remain in contact with ATC for the purpose of receiving traffic advisories on a cross-country flight to a specific destination airport. Any other term ("traffic advisories" or "radar advisories" or similar) implies not that, e.g. traffic advisories in a more limited area, such as a Class C/B airspace transition or air work in a practice area or a sightseeing flight. If this distinction was codified and explicitly taught to pilots and controllers it would reduce the amount of questions I have to ask when someone calls up asking for VFR services.

But not every controller feels strongly about this, and the FAA's Pilot/Controller Glossary entry for FLIGHT FOLLOWING simply points to TRAFFIC ADVISORIES.


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