Air New Zealand denied help to Team New Zealand when they were building their America's Cup catamaran - because the Kiwi sailors were sponsored by a rival airline.
But the national carrier, owned by our Government, was happy to help Oracle with their boat.
Air New Zealand says one of its guiding principles is to champion and promote New Zealand and its business.
An investigation by The Dominion Post can reveal that Team NZ approached the airline to use its carbon fibre manufacturing facility.
But senior Air New Zealand managers decided to deny their request.
Team NZ, sponsored by rival airline Emirates, wanted to pay to use Air New Zealand's manufacturing division's autoclave technology to produce components for their AC72 catamaran.
The airline had the only autoclave machinery in the country capable of producing the specific designs required by the Kiwi sailors.
But Air New Zealand senior management refused the request - partly on the basis it would be helping Emirates, which was sponsoring the challengers.
After the rebuff, Team NZ's Auckland-based boatbuilders Cookson Boats found a way to change its autoclave technology to make curved dagger boards for the team.
The machinery pressure cooks and bonds carbon fibre to create components such as boat rudders, dagger boards and main beams.
The machinery was used virtually every second day for the best part of a year while the huge catamaran was being built for Team NZ.
Air New Zealand confirmed last night that it had provided the service for Larry Ellison's Oracle boatbuilders.
A spokeswoman for the airline said when Team NZ asked to use the autoclave, Air New Zealand asked for limited sponsorship rights in return.
"But Team New Zealand was not keen on this, due to a perceived conflict with its lead airline sponsor [Emirates]."
Air New Zealand said it turned down an Oracle sponsorship proposal around June last year and Oracle "then requested use of the autoclave in a straight commercial deal at normal rates".
Team NZ declined to comment yesterday. It is understood the Kiwi sailors were disappointed with Air New Zealand, but there was no suggestion the issue made a difference to the down-to-the-wire cup loss.
Air New Zealand is owned by the government, which pumped $36 million into Team NZ's cup campaign. A decision has yet to be made on whether taxpayers' money could contribute to a future challenge.
A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill English, a shareholding minister in Air New Zealand, said the decision about helping any syndicate was a matter for the airline.
The Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the airline had been "strongly supportive" of Team NZ, with a commercial arrangement to reduce its travel costs during the cup campaign.
"The airline is grateful for the efforts of all Team New Zealand's sponsors, as a successful regatta has driven strong passenger traffic on our Auckland-San Francisco route.
"It goes without saying that Team New Zealand sailors and shore staff have been some of Air New Zealand's most regular customers on the route."
Air New Zealand had supported America's Cup campaigns for around two decades, the spokeswoman said. Internal discussions were already under way at the airline to study whether it could "play a role" in a future Team NZ cup challenge.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Which of these best describes your home?Related story: Homes may be making children sick