Overanalyzing The Viral Grindr Pilot Story

Filed Under: Media

For those of you not familiar with Grindr, it’s a gay location based social networking application (I think that’s the PG-rated way to describe it?).

Over the past few days a story has gone viral based on the below Tweet:

As you can see, it has been retweeted over 31,000 times, and has been favorited about 220,000 times. Also, if you follow any meme accounts on Instagram or anything, you may have very well seen this.

The supposed backstory of this incident

The New York Post has the story of what supposedly happened here:

  • A 27 year old was traveling from Minneapolis to Chicago on Delta in August
  • When the flight landed, he received a message from someone 90 feet away saying “I see you’re on my flight. Enjoy the ride to Chicago,” which he claims was sent 30 minutes before the plane landed
  • When he saw this, his reaction was that he needed to get off the plane as fast as he could, because he has had some weird experiences with “proximity stuff” on Grindr
  • He then decided to message the guy (after deciding he needed to get off the plane as soon as possible), and said the pilot seemed like a “nice guy”
  • When he landed in Nashville that day he decided to delete Grindr
  • He said he would have met the pilot in retrospect

Leave it to me to overanalyze this

I wouldn’t be writing about this, except the story has gone really viral, and I think there are a few inconsistencies here. I’m not suggesting anyone is lying, but rather I think at a minimum there may have been a misunderstanding here. And since many people are suggesting that it’s irresponsible for the pilot to be using Grindr during the flight, I do think it’s fair to come to the supposed pilot’s defense here.

I don’t want to say the guy on Twitter is making this up, though something doesn’t add up:

  • First of all, if you’re connected to airplane wifi, Grindr will not load and connect you to nearby people (and I’ve confirmed this with several people who are both frequent Grindr users and frequent flyers); so there’s no way the pilot messaged the passenger during the flight based on his location
  • Let’s look at the timestamps of all this — the message was supposedly sent at 5:23AM, and he says it was sent 30 minutes before landing, so unless Delta has some secretive pre-5AM departure from Minneapolis to Chicago that I’m missing, that doesn’t add up
  • It doesn’t even seem probable that the pilot could have sent this before departure; the earliest flight from Minneapolis to Chicago in the schedule departs at 6:50AM
  • While the supposed pilot’s profile picture is of a cockpit, it sure looks to me like the cockpit of a single-engine plane, based on the prop that’s in front (it’s possible I’m seeing something incorrectly here, but I’m fairly confident)
  • The guy claims he was flying Delta and was connecting the same day to Nashville, but Delta doesn’t fly from Chicago to Nashville
  • Something about the guy’s logic seems off — he’s creeped out about being messaged using a location-based networking application and decides he needs to get off the plane as quickly as possible, then talks to the guy, and then deletes the app

So yeah, not that this needs to be investigated to MH370 levels, but I think it’s safe to assume that something here really doesn’t add up, and there’s not a need for Delta to investigate or anything.

If the pilot was messaging, it was before the flight took off, and it sounds like the pilot was being appropriate. However, it seems much more likely that this was just someone else messaging pretending to be a pilot, or something. Or given the other inconsistencies, this may just be fake news altogether.

To Grindr experts, pilots, and all others — what’s your take on this situation?

  1. That’s not “viral” there’s so many other aviation related stories you could cover. You just hop on any thing gay related

  2. GPS is quiet accessible on flights. In fact, it is the only thing that works during take off and landing as it only requires getting signal from GPS satellites which are on all the time. You can try to get GPS data next time when you are sitting next to a window. Without wifi or cellular assistance, it might take a while to lock on, but it definitely works. I often use it to track my flight location and altitude with maps stored on my phone.

  3. What’s to say the message wasn’t from a fellow passenger who, plot twist, was an aviation enthusiast?!? *Gasp*

  4. @ John — I’d say that’s very possible and more likely than it being the pilot, hah. But the 5:23AM timestamp still doesn’t make sense.

  5. @ Jackie — Maybe I didn’t express that correctly, and you’re right, I’ve also used GPS on planes in that way. But I’ve been told by many people that Grindr won’t load nearby people on plane wifi, so I’m not sure exactly what causes that, but I’ve been told that by everyone I’ve asked.

  6. I seriously don’t get why this is an issue and I feel sorry for the pilot (if he exists) and think the guy that tweeted about it is a d*ck.

    Firstly – Grindr is a gay networking site. I use it. I’ve stayed in hotels where hotel staff have messaged me, eaten in restaurants or drank in bars where staff have later messaged me. Big deal.

    Secondly – the message is a really nice, G-rated non offensive one. I get if the pilot send a pic of his D or something but it’s not the case.

    Thirdly – pilots do all kinda stuff when they are flying a plane. They read the paper. They drink coffee. They pop out for a chat with the cabin crew, stretch their legs. It’s hardly a safety issue.

    Purely just another D.B wanting five minutes of fame at the expense of someone else. Sad.

  7. @ Tim — Not sure how you define viral, but it’s on the front page of the New York Post and marked as “trending,” I’ve seen it all over Instagram, and the Tweet has 200K+ favorites (which is more than just about any of Trump’s Tweets, and that’s all anyone seems to talk about nowadays anyway). You really don’t consider that to be viral?

  8. @ abc — Then the timing still doesn’t make sense. He claims he saw the message when he arrived in Chicago. The message had apparently been sent at 5:23AM, so even if 7AM is the exact minute he arrived, that leaves only 97 minutes. The flight is blocked at 1hr55min, and the flight boards 30 minutes before that. So it’s highly unlikely that they arrived in Chicago fewer than 97 minutes after boarding started.

  9. I “met” a delta pilot off my flight in Dublin ..but we were staying at the same hotel and I didn’t know he was my pilot until after the fact ….not as spicy I guess :p

  10. Surely the phone could have simply been in a different time zone still?

    I’m sure it wasn’t the pilot and I don’t believe the story, but I don’t think the time is such a big deal.

  11. @ Simon — I suppose anything is possible, but all three cities he was traveling between that day were in the same timezone, and nowadays most phones automatically adjust timezones. So that seems pretty unlikely to me.

  12. @lucky.
    seeing he was traveling to Nashville via Chicago, he was probably flying AA and changed the story to Delta for whatever reason. AA has a 550am flight. The guy could have already boarded or at the gate ready to board. The 550am flight is scheduled to arrive at 736am – it could have landed early that day and I’m sure they guy turned one his phone while taxiing.
    Just makes a better twitter story to say it happened mid-flight…from the CAPTAIN!

  13. As you’ve stated lucky, GPS does not work for Grindr while in flight on wifi – in my experience your location stays static until you land in your destination city and connect to cell service or other wifi.

  14. Both the Grindr and Scruff apps worked a week back in mid-air on BA’s WiFi from EZE-LHR. A constant stream of messages were sent/ received over Brazil, before I went to sleep. Then again over Portugal and Spain near home.

    Er… Or so I’m told.

  15. I didn’t realize that there was something called the “New York Post” and after visiting the site, I can’t believe that anyone would read it…

  16. Yes!!!! The tweets and articles about this ridiculous story have been driving me crazy. I was wondering when someone would finally have a brain about it. There are so many inconsistencies. Thanks for the article.

  17. Like The nice Paul, I’ve used Scruff a moderate-ish amount while airborne, both domestically and internationally. So that much is plausible. Everything else about the story, not so much. Further, the gay pilots I know – with whom I’ve talked about Scruffing/Grinding in the past, way prior to this story – have told me that the aviation/pilot world is apparently fairly homophobic so their really reticent to use “the apps” at all near work let alone while working, and that they absolutely wouldn’t engage a passenger or FA while on the clock for myriad reasons. Of course this is just 3 or 4 instances so who knows.

  18. I’ve flown many times in the flight deck of commercial airlines. There simply is no time in which a pilot would or even could be doing this on the ground, and as mentioned, seems unlikely it would function properly in the air lest a triad of circumstances aligned.

  19. Interesting Wikipedia data point: A Chinese company owns 60% of Grindr. (As in People’s Republic of China.)

  20. Lucky. You said most phones automatically adjust timezones. That might be true but most phones also got a place to turn it off. I had turn mine off because it mess things up when you working close to a time zone line. Try crossing the time zone a dozen times a day. You will get an idea how annoying it’s.

  21. I think not only is this thing fake, it’s an OMNI troll made troll made to be provocative and stir up conflict.

  22. When I was 20 I was staying in the Hilton Prague and chatting with a pilot on Grindr. We pretty quickly realized he was captaining my BA flight to LHR the next morning. We didn’t end up meeting that night, but the next morning when boarding finished a flight attendant came and grabbed me from my Y seat and moved me up to J. During cruise he came out and sat next to me and we chatted for about 20 minutes! Nice guy, wish I had met up with his partner and him sometime in London, but I lost his info. If you see this, BA pilot, this not really an airplane salesman would love to say hello!

  23. @lucky
    Thanx for your post. Its good to know that Grindr works everywhere. Let me share guys my own experience here. I was flying with Lufthansa in business from NYC to Europe and thanx to wifi promo I used Grindr during all me flight. All messages I have got were not from the crew either fellow passengers but from gays on ground located in: San Franciso, New Zeland, South Africa, Canada (but West Coast). All messages from them I have received when I was more or less under Island and in the middle of Atlantic Ocean. I was surprised but my talks with the whole world were inspiring. So tell ne now, how was it possible?
    Surprisingly my own sex experience during flight, with a fellow gay on the same flight, in the toilet which I had in my life was a year before I started to use Grindr. The conclusion is simple: Grindr is not as good as you think under the stars.

  24. @Ben The wide range of media you reference in your blog is quite impressive. But I’m curious, what (if any) newspapers do you (having a strong interest in not only travel but international affairs) read thoroughly on a daily basis (e.g. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post)?

  25. I wasn’t going to touch this story with a barge pole, BUT perhaps the pilot and the man were chatting on the app before that message was sent and the man said where and when he was flying the next day and the pilot then later realised he would be piloting his flight so sent the 5am message to say ‘you’re on my flight’?

  26. Wish I got chatted up by a pilot 🙂

    The 1 day I tried Grndr I just got a load of 60+ year old D pics 🙁

    Why can’t I get a nice guy like lucky or James 😉

  27. @Ben I’m also interested in VaCavalier’s question. I’m young and tend to read quite a bit of news but you’re always really on top of it.

    WSJ is my go-to for international content and its ‘From the Middle Seat’ report is pretty good, but I’m interested in what non-av stuff you’ve got.


  28. DenB® Travel Rule: always pay for inflight WiFi, always connect, open Grindr from your window seat and press the phone against the window. Watch the map, watch the guys. Wonderful experience. At least 20% believe you when you explain where you are. Actual hookup experience may vary

  29. So they didn’t have sex? So where’s the story??? A guy that didn’t dare to meet another one??? Yawwwwn… Thats called a timewaster

  30. @VaCavalier – your comment made me smirk. For some reason I do not expect Ben to read any of the reputed newspapers you mention, especially since most of the news on this blog is dated. (I mean he does refer to the NY Post here, which is anything but a reputed source for news).

  31. Do the excecise and try to share your location while on a plane’s WiFi… My location has shown as being in some the most remote places.. or right in the middle of the jungle, oceans, etc.

    Def OT… but are we over represented (as in is there a higher % of gay people) in aviation forums?

  32. @Lucky

    Thanks for posting this. It’s a fun story to share in a crazy world.

    BTW, I and I’m sure many others would like to see more of your wedding and honeymoon pictures. Please consider sharing.

    Have a nice day.


  33. The NY Post is not known for accurate reporting, so i would keep that in mind. This is just sone guy seeking attention. The pilot if he did send it was totally respectful. Only issue i have is if this was done during the flight. If it is done while on the flight deck he should be paying attention to the plane and not on social media. This should apply to all pilots, this is not a long flight where he has off time. Also i think its inappropriate for pilots to be contacting passengers during a flight or before takeoff. What if some creepy male pilot starts hitting on a female passenger? There is a power dynamic there where a pilot can have passengers removed even if they broke no laws. This pilot didnt seem to have ill intentions but i think the risk is there and its not appropriate to message someone until the flight is over and the airline should hace a policy against this.

  34. To be blunt, if the app is on your device, either respond to the messages or ignore/delete. There is no need to make a case….what’s on the app can’t hurt you as long as it stays on the app.

  35. @Tim, I enjoy reading Lucky’s stories that have an LGBT angle to them. If someone writes a story about two heterosexuals getting up to something on a plane, and Lucky has written about things like that many times, nobody accuses him of promoting heterosexuality. LGBT people like me and Lucky have to listen and watch heterosexuals blatantly and shamelessly parade their sexuality in front of us everyday, everywhere we go. How dare you bitch about this. You’re a hypocrite and a homophobe.

  36. #metoo
    Gay edition
    Feels like good material for another Curb your Enthusiasm episode. Imagine Larry David perusing pilots ass to Miłe High Club.

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