Flights in and out of the airport were suspended after the attack.
Taxis were used to rush casualties to hospital in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
The Istanbul governor gave the death toll of 28 after first reports of 10 fatalities.
The state-run Anadolu agency said around 60 people had been wounded, six of them seriously.
Two South African tourists, Paul and Susie Roos from Cape Town, were at the airport and
due to fly home at the time of the explosions.
“We came up from the arrivals to the departures, up the escalator when we heard these shots going off,”
Mr Roos told the Associated Press new agency.
“There was this guy going roaming around, he was dressed in black and he had a hand gun.”
up to three attackers, with one male and opened fire with a Kalashnikov rifle and
targeted access to the station point.
It has been linked to the recent bombings in Turkey either the Kurds or the so-called Group of Islamic countries separatists.
It sounds like a large, coordinated attack, reports Mark Lowen BBC.
He said Ataturk Airport long as an easy target, adds our correspondent Turkey,
reporting from the plane at the airport.
There are X-ray scanners at the entrance to the station, but security checks for cars and limited.