Three musicians were left stunned after they were forced to buy additional seats for their instruments on a Ryanair flight.
The trio, who flew to Stansted to play at a Bach concert, believed they could take their instruments on board as free hand luggage.
Three days before their flight they discovered they would have to pay for an extra seat for each violin case — at a cost of £1,340.
Hungarian-born Agnes Langer (18) and Russian Igor Tsinman (26) flew from Frankfurt-Hahn airport on Friday with their tutor Prof Anne Shih.
But the Irish airline ruled the cases were bigger than the permitted 55cms by 40cms by 20cms.
As they could not run the risk of their 18th century violins — worth up to £800,000 each — getting damaged in the hold, they were obliged to pay for extra seats.
The violins were strapped in their own seats for the journey to the Salle recital, paid for reluctantly by charity Norfolk Concerts, which organised the concert in the church at Salle, near Reepham, Norfolk.
Executive director Douglas Gowan is now preparing to take legal action against the budget airline for breach of contract.
He claims Ryanair had agreed the instruments would be exempt from the hand luggage limit when tickets were booked a month ago.
Mr Gowan said: “Obviously you cannot put a fragile Stradivarius or Guarnerius in the hold due to the cold, let alone risk of damage.
“Ryanair want to get the message out that they don't want hand luggage in the cabins and they simply don't give a damn if a few musicians have a problem. It is so anti-cultural.
“We are saying that we had a contract and they have changed the rules — and our lawyers think we have a good case.”