That will be a tough sell: Southwest holds leases on its gates, and would have to agree to relinquish them. Generally, an airport gate can host up to 10 flights daily. Today, Southwest operates about 120 flights a day to 14 cities from Love.
Southwest is noncommittal on the question of whether it would give up gates, but Stewart indicated that the airline will be reluctant.
"It's really too early to say for sure, because we don't know how things are going to play out," he said. "But we've made a substantial investment over the years at Love Field, and it's hard to imagine us giving up anything."
American's strategists apparently believe that the size of Love, and the distribution of gates, are more important issues than the timing of a Wright Amendment phaseout.
Some parties, such as the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, have suggested phasing out the restrictions over several years. But American executives are more concerned about keeping the airport small.
"American would rather see a smaller Love Field sooner, as opposed to a bigger Love Field a few years down the road," the source said.
American executives are also interested in the idea of a regional airport authority that would oversee both airports. That plan has been suggested by both cities.
American would support a regional authority if it set equal landing fees at both airports. That would eliminate one advantage for airlines at Love Field and help keep D/FW's fees from rising as quickly.
Regardless, the source said, the airline wants to convince North Texans that it is serious about negotiating, and it plans to work with Southwest, the cities and the local congressional delegation to come up with a solution.
But don't expect American to give up easily.
"I can't imagine a situation where American would go along with something that would do a lot of damage," the source said. "If it isn't in their interest, of course they'd fight it."
Washington correspondent Maria Recio contributed to this report.
IN THE KNOW
The Wright Amendment
Critics say the 1979 federal law, passed by Congress to protect the then-new Dallas/Fort Worth Airport from competition at Love Field, crimps competition and keeps North Texas airfares high. It has come under increasing attack in Congress, pushing Fort Worth and Dallas into talks.
Dallas Love Field could see traffic double or even triple if the Wright Amendment were repealed.
A citizens committee representing neighborhoods around Dallas Love Field said it would withdraw support for the city's airport master plan if the Wright Amendment is repealed.
DFW Airport could support phasing out limits at Love Field only if the smaller airport closed as many as 14 of its 32 gates.
A consultant hired by Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport says an expansion of nearby Love Field would lead to reduced flights and millions fewer passengers each year at DFW.