Posted recently by Tobester in the Hoax Forum
I couldn't resist doing some research on this. Here's what I found.
a) It's definitely an urban legend.
b) I can't find any record of it ever appearing in the New York Times
c) The earliest mention of it I can find in print dates back to July 10, 2000, when it was discussed in the Sydney Morning Herald
. Apparently, in a version circulating back then, they were identified as the source of the tale. They denied this, pointed out the tale was an urban legend, and noted that in earlier versions of the story American Airlines was referred to as the carrier.
d) Despite being an urban legend, it has occasionally been reported in papers as real news. For instance, the Belfast News Letter
reported it on April 19, 2003. The Scotsman
reported it on February 2, 2001. And The Gleaner
reported it on March 13, 2004.